SEC Network Poised to Take Over

By Don Wade

Wading in … and wondering what an eventual deal between the SEC Network and DirecTV will mean for me. Will my bill go up 10 percent? Fifteen percent? Twenty percent?

Will I have to drink only domestics in brown bottles? Give up the ESPN of coffee (Star----)?

And, most disturbing, am I, in some roundabout way, about to help pay for Nick Saban’s new contract – which for the next eight seasons could go north of $55 million?

It all sort of makes you feel like you’ve been tied and bound to your recliner, a gag placed in your mouth, as your TV carrier dictates your future.

Oh, and no small point: ESPN owns the SEC Network. Which is why the leverage is what it is.

For now, DirecTV (20 million subscribers) and Comcast (22.6 million) are on the outside looking in; DISH Network (14 million) and AT&T U-verse have reached deals with the SEC Network.

The SEC Network launches on Aug. 14 and has Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer on board as its lead team for football games and has hired Tim Brando to do basketball play-by-play. Former Florida Gator Heisman Trophy winner and fan favorite Tim Tebow also has been hired by the network.

So they seem to be serious.

And while there will be plenty of filler programming – sorry, but if you’re watching college volleyball on TV by choice you’ve got too much time on your hands – the first week of football season on the network will deliver Texas A&M vs. South Carolina.

A Comcast spokesman recently told USAToday that the company was “optimistic” it would come to an agreement. Dan York of DirecTV told the newspaper: “We would certainly wish to carry the SEC Network sooner than later. Timing will depend on at what point do we feel like we are getting a fair value proposition from Disney/ESPN to make it available.”

Unfortunately, for us mere customers, a “fair value proposition” isn’t even in the conversation. Costs will be passed on to consumers who, rumor has it, will have the option of offering an arm or a leg in lieu of cash....

Don Zimmer, perhaps best known as Joe Torre’s bench coach with the 1990’s New York Yankees, and as a manager of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, died at 83 this week. Zimmer, known as “Zim” and “Popeye” for his bulging forearms and cheeks, was pure, old-school, baseball.

The guy suffered a beaning so severe in his playing days he actually had to have metal plates inserted in his head. And he still got back in the batter’s box and had a major-league career.

Still employed as a senior adviser for the Tampa Bays at the time of his death, he had been in the game for 66 years and played for five MLB teams, including the 1962 New York Mets, and managed four teams.

Zimmer was managing the Red Sox in 1978 when they lost a one-game playoff to the Yankees for the American League East Division title and light-hitting Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent hit a crucial three-run homer over Fenway Park’s Green Monster. Years later, when Zimmer was a Yankees coach, he rented a house in New Jersey owned by Dent.

“Everywhere in the house there were all these different pictures of that damn home run,” Zimmer once said. “I turned ’em all around and left ’em that way.” …

… University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner finally made his much-discussed strength coach hire, selecting Evarist Akujobi, who spent the last three seasons at Houston Baptist University as the director of strength and conditioning.

In 2004, Akujobi founded a freelance personal training company, F.A.S.T. – Fitness Athletic and Speed Training. Through his company, he has worked with several NBA players, including Tracy McGrady, D.J. Augustine, Marcus Williams and T.J. Ford.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.